Michelin 3-star companies
It’s him. There’s only one Ferran. Last week I interviewed Adrià and had a blast talking about innovation. It was in the context of an event organized by a leading telecommunications company of the Spanish-speaking market, the name of which I can’t mention (it’s Telefónica, shhhh, don’t let anyone know), and for which the famous cook is global brand ambassador. Ideas flowed in the 45 minutes that we were speaking in front of some 300 executives of very well-known companies.
This is how it went: His first reaction was to completely ignore my opening question (“We’re off to a good start,” I thought, but it turned out we really were off to a good start). He began by talking about how his profession, that of restaurateur, consists of managing chaos. He reflected on how little prepared companies are for managing chaos. From chaos he continued abruptly in his peculiar train of thought to explain that he regularly collaborated with large corporations and that it struck him to see how, in general, specific departments met with him to speak about innovation, rather than representatives of all areas, whereas for him innovation is a kind of “system,” corresponding to representatives from very diverse disciplines. He linked this to the project of “El Bulli Lab,” where multidisciplinary teams – from cooks to engineers, historians, and philosophers – are trying to audit and decode the creative process. He spoke of Sapiens, a methodology by which they aim to, among other things, achieve a taxonomy of nutrition, that is re-classify food in the least corrupted way in order to go back in time, isolating preconceived ideas that we have today with respect to what is, for example, a tomato (in another article on another day, I explained Adrià’s dissertation on what is and what should be, according to him, this delicacy).
At this point, around minute 25, he took a break to comment that all of us are interested in innovation but that there isn’t a single museum in the world dedicated to innovation. He pointed out that in El Bulli Lab they always work with the idea in mind of mounting exhibitions that require an explanation of how innovation works (all this and I hadn’t done anything except ask the disregarded opening question; as interviewer, my role bordered tragedy).
He explained that he had had the luck of working with universities such as MIT or Harvard, where he gave classes, and there he had observed how innovation requires time (at IESE, Professor Julián Villanueva wrote with Ferran’s help years ago about El Bulli, after intense research aimed at discovering, among other things, the keys to innovation in a business like his). And my column has come to an end. What a shame, I had another 20 minutes or so of interviews with Michelin 3-star companies.